The Norman Transcript

November 16, 2012

Kami Day: Storyteller

By Shana Adkisson
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Dr. Kami Day takes no credit for the book with her name on it. In fact, she really wishes her name weren’t on the book at all.

The book, “100 Stories from Veterans Corner,” is the result of a three-year project designed to collect, compile and share the stories of military veterans, their spouses and other family members. The project started in January 2010, shortly after Day moved to Norman.

“Anyplace I go, I try to find an organization or program that is in need of some people who are willing to devote some hours. I was looking around and I saw Dale (Graham’s) article (Veterans Corner) in the paper looking for volunteers. My father is a veteran. He was a B-52 navigator and he did three tours in Vietnam. He was a career Air Force officer. My son is in the National Guard,” Day said.

So Day started volunteering each Thursday morning at Veterans Corner in Goldsby. She, like the 40 or so other volunteers around her, help process claims from veterans who are seeking the full benefits they are entitled to following their military service.

Not long after her stint of volunteering, Day found out her mission with Veterans Corner was about to take on a whole new level.

“One of his (Graham’s) articles he said, ‘I wish we had some way to preserve and share their stories.’ Because I had experience interviewing and transcribing, I volunteered,” Day said.

Day conducted, transcribed and edited interviews and also incorporated stories brought in by individuals interested in the project. The book includes stories from World War I through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as much as possible, presents the narrations as the interviewees told them.

“It’s not my book. My name has to be on it. I interviewed, I transcribed, I compiled. I rearranged some things to make sense. I edited. But these are their stories. It’s my book in the fact that I take responsibility for it and I put it together.” Day said.

Since she is the daughter of a military man, Day does include her own story of growing up in a military family.

Day, who teaches in the women’s and gender studies program at the University of Oklahoma, feels honored that so many men and women felt compelled to tell her their stories.

“Probably half of them said no, they didn’t want to be interviewed. And sometimes in an interview they would ask me to turn the recorder off, so I did. I feel really, really honored that they would tell me their stories. And that Dale would trust me with this project, because he didn’t really know me. Some of these stories, these men and women had never told before,” Day said. “People that are not in the military, especially who don’t see combat, have no idea how these experiences affect our soldiers. I’ve talked to Vietnam vets who were in service for a year and it has a huge impact on the rest of their lives. I’ve talked to a lot of World War II vets who have had PTSD for 70 years. They were not diagnosed, they didn’t have any help until now. I think we don’t really understand the cost of war.”

For some of the veterans that Day interviewed, she could feel a sense of relief that someone wanted to hear their story.

“A lot of them have said their family didn’t want to hear it anymore and their friends didn’t want to hear it and sometimes they didn’t believe them. I just chose to believe everybody,” Day said.

All the proceeds from “100 Stories from Veterans Corner” go back to Veterans Corner mostly for the benevolence fund established by the non-profit organization that assists with food, rent, gas, utilities and any other needs of veterans.

There is talk of another book, Day said. However, Day doesn’t feel at this time the project is something she is able to handle alone.

“I don’t know if I have that kind of time again. What I’ve told them is that I could do the recording, if someone would do the transcription and I could put it together,” Day said.

And, although Day is at Veterans Corner in Goldsby on Thursday morning, she realizes other volunteers work tirelessly to assist veterans.

“They do a lot of really good work. During the week, they meet people at coffee shops and IHOP. And they give all this time. They are really good people,” Day said. “You have to have a really sincere belief that these veterans deserve and have earned these benefits. And you have to be committed to getting them their full benefits.”

Books can be purchased from Harold Harvell for $15 at Veterans Corner in the Goldsby Community Center on Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon or they are available on Amazon.com for $20. For more information on Veterans Corner, visit www.veteranscorner.org.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.